A shadow is the dark shape created when light is blocked by an opaque object—maybe even yourself. Your shadow is not simply flat, as the image on the sidewalk might suggest, but occupies the three-dimensional airspace between you and the pavement. A shadow is not, however, a separate entity. It is wholly dependent on you. It is not alive; it is a mere image.
This passage in Hebrews speaks of the office of the priest as a shadow of what was to come through Jesus Christ. The Law and the priests were not created to be a solution to the problem of sin, but “only a shadow of the good things that are coming” (v. 1). The sacrifices and offerings of the Mosaic Law never made anyone perfect. They had to be repeated again and again because, although they temporarily atoned for sin, they did not prevent it. The high priest’s offering became an “annual reminder” of the sinful nature of God’s people (v. 3). In fact, it was “impossible” for these blood sacrifices to take away sins (v. 4).
This explains the necessity for the sacrifice of Christ. Through His resurrection, we are made holy (v. 10). Does this mean that we no longer sin or have a sin nature? No. Rather, through trusting in what Jesus has done on our behalf, we can find forgiveness and the power of God to resist sin (vv. 14–16). We have been moved from death to life by Jesus’ sacrifice.
We are no longer viewed by God as sinful but as His redeemed children. We have been completely forgiven: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more” (v. 17). Does this mean we will never sin again? No. But it is an assurance that those sins were covered once and for all by Christ (v. 18).
This passage is not a “get out of jail free” card, with a license to persist in sin. Notice the effect of this sacrifice: through it, we are being made holy. We are being transformed day by day into image of Jesus. Our forgiveness is a motivation to follow Him, to “draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings” (v. 22).